Contempt of court happens when one individual knows of an existing court order and intentionally ignores or disobeys the terms of the order. Family law judges will only find someone in contempt if the violation is serious and other actions (i.e. attempts to reach out to the violating party or sending a demand letter) were taken before holding a contempt hearing.
The following are several examples of contempt in family law matters:
- One parent withholds another parent from court-ordered visitation
- One parent fails to return the child to the other once visitation ends
- One parent continues to ignore paying child support
- One ex-spouse continues to ignore paying alimony
- One ex-spouse fails to give assets to the other according to the property division settlement
- One parent requires court assistance to enforce court orders
In a contempt hearing, the wronged party must prove that the other is in contempt according to four elements. First, demonstrate there is a valid court order that was signed by the judge. Second, prove that the other party was aware of the court order by showing he/she was present when the court issued the order, that he/she was served with the order, and he/she stopped obeying the order after complying with it for some time. Third, demonstrate the other party was capable of following the order. Finally, show that the other party knowingly and willfully disregards the order.
If the court finds someone to be in contempt of court, the individual may face the following punishments for a first offense:
- A maximum jail sentence of five days
- A maximum of 120 hours of community service
- A maximum fine of $1,000
When it comes to child and spousal support, each monthly payment is considered a separate act. For example, if a parent fails to pay child support for eight months, that is eight separate counts—totally to 40 days in jail.
Whether you want to file contempt of court against your ex-spouse or if you are on the receiving end of one, our Newport Beach family law attorneys at Burch, Coulston & Shepard, LLP can help you obtain the best results possible. We can assess your case, determine your legal options, and develop an effective case strategy on your behalf.
For more information about our experienced legal services, contact us and schedule a consultation today.